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8 Ways Social Media Distorts our Realities

  1. Extreme Emotion Distortion: occurs as users have access to virtually unlimited amounts of personalized, emotional content, any user can find overwhelming evidence for their deeply held beliefs. This situation creates contradicting “evidence-based” views, resulting in animosity and fracturing of our collective sensemaking.
  2. The Information Flooding Distortion: happens as algorithms and bots flood or curate the information users see based on their likelihood to engage with it, resulting in users believing that what is popular (e.g., hashtags, comments, trends) is public consensus, when in fact it can also be manipulated distortion.
  3. Micro-Targeting Distortion: this happens as advertisers send personalized, emotionally resonant — and sometimes opposing — messages to distinct groups of people, resulting in individualized micro-realities that can generate social conflict.
  4. Moral Outrage Distortion: occurs when engagement-maximizing algorithms amplify emotionally charged, moralizing content. This results in polarization, mischaracterizations of “the other side,” and the perception of more moral outrage around us than there really is.
  5. Engaging Content Distortion: this happens when social media platforms incentivize competition to create more viral content. This results in more frequent posting, more hyperbolic language, and more posting of extreme views, including conspiracy theories and out-of-context information.
  6. Anti-Journalism Distortion: is created as social media platforms force reputable news organizations to compete in an environment that rewards clickbait headlines and polarizing rhetoric resulting in less thoughtful, less nuanced reporting.
  7. Disloyalty Distortion: this happens when users on public social media feeds try to understand or express compassion for the “other” side and are attacked by their “own” side for doing so.
  8. The Othering Distortion: occurs as algorithms amplify divisive, negative, out-of-context content about particular groups. This incentivizes “othering” content, causing us to dehumanize others and view them as unworthy of our understanding.